Wildflower Wonder at Valley View Glades Natural Area in Missouri
Less than an hour south of St. Louis lies one of our favorite and uncrowded spots to hike. Tucked away off the highway near Hillsboro, Valley View Glades is a 225 acre site with a mix of dolomite glades, woodlands, and trickling streams. This mostly undisturbed area looks very much like what would have greeted early French settlers to the area. Native wildflowers flourish in the open glades and put on an impressive display in spring and summer. In the fall, the forest comes alive in brilliant hues of orange and yellow. The single trail here makes an easy 2.8 mile loop.
Valley View Glades Loop
- Length: 2.8 mile loop
- Difficulty: 2.5 out of 5. A few minor hills up and down, uneven surfaces. Some areas can be muddy after heavy rain. Several stream crossings which could involve wet feet if the water is flowing high, but has never been an issue for us.
- Scenic Value: 4 out of 5. The wildflower display is beautiful and changes throughout spring and summer. After a good rain, trickling waterfalls come to life here. Also a good hike for fall color.
- Things to know: Site is open 4 a.m.-10 p.m. No restrooms at trailhead, but gas stations and other amenities are nearby. Maps available on site or online. Hunting is allowed here, so check dates and wear orange or bright yellow if you choose to hike here during those seasons.
From the parking area, the trail makes a small descent through the trees into the first open glade area. From here, you can have a nice and expansive view of the glades, wildflowers, and the forest on the other side of the glade. You will make a loop, passing through each of the open glades before ducking back into the trees again. The hike can do done either direction, we usually go clockwise to the left to reach the waterfalls first.
After crossing across this glade area, the trail once again enters the woods. The path follows along the creek for a stretch. If there has been a recent rain, you can hear the splash of several small waterfalls along the way. This spot was just off trail to the left.
The trail follows along the creek and is more narrow and occasionally slightly overgrown in this section. Tick and bug repellent is recommended as well as keeping an eye out for poison ivy.
The trail crosses the creek in a couple spots. More tiny waterfalls can be found upstream of the first crossing.
My favorite waterfall area comes just a little further down the trail. The path goes right next to a 2 foot sandstone ledge with a lovely and wide waterfall. This is a great splash area for kids to play as well.
The trail makes a short but steep climb up the hill not far from here and leaves the creek behind.
The trail passes through the woods and another glade. More varieties of flowers can be seen here.
The trail soon returns to follow the creek for a short distance. Another nice wet weather fall can be found off to the left.
The path then moves away from the creek, through another glade, and then begins to follow an old road. The path is nice and wide here through the trees. After a short distance on the old road, a fork will appear. There are arrow signs indicating that you can either continue straight or go off to the right. If you choose to go right, you will follow a short loop through yet another glade area. The loop portion will join back up with the trail along the old road so you can choose either path to take.
Eventually the road continues to the left while the trail turns right and heads downhill. The path continues to alternate between winding through the trees and following along through an open glade.
Some of the best flowers are found during this last stretch of trail.
After crossing the last of the glade, you will reach the start of the loop trail. Continue back up the hill to return to the parking area.